Perineum care and episiotomies

Childbirth puts the area around your vagina under a lot of strain – but there are ways you can minimise any discomfort

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Labour Essentials

When you give birth, a lot of pressure is put on the perineum (the area between your vagina and anus). This can sometimes lead to tearing, but you can help to prepare this delicate area for childbirth with massage.

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Healing hands

It’s best to begin around six weeks before your due date, as this coincides with a rise in the hormones that loosen ligaments for birth. Dip your thumbs in a natural oil such as sweet almond oil and put them an inch or two into your vagina. Press your perineum down towards your rectum and to the sides. Gently stretch the opening until you feel a tingling sensation, and hold the pressure for a couple of minutes. Then massage for three to four minutes and repeat three times a week.

No help required?

Massage may also reduce your chances of needing an episiotomy (a cut to enlarge the opening of the vagina). This isn’t routine, however, and your midwife will only suggest it if tearing is likely to be extensive. This could be if your baby needs to be born quickly, if he’s breech, or if he needs forceps. An upright birthing position and gentle, spontaneous pushing can also help to avoid a cut.

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A little TLC

Whatever happens, your perineum will be a bit sore after birth. An ice pack will reduce swelling, and a bath can be soothing. Keep the area clean and dry, and drink lots of water: this will reduce stinging when you use the loo.

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